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Thrown For Some Big Losses
Douglas S. Looney
August 12, 1985
Dogged by financial reversals, Dallas running back Tony Dorsett is seeking to solve them, in part, by holding out
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August 12, 1985

Thrown For Some Big Losses

Dogged by financial reversals, Dallas running back Tony Dorsett is seeking to solve them, in part, by holding out

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Dorsett claims the Cowboys have been promising since 1982 to renegotiate his contract, but have reneged. Another Dorsett adviser, Witt Stewart, an agent who lives in Austin and L.A., says he was told by Cowboy vice-president Gil Brandt last summer that Dorsett would get a "Randy White deal." Schramm denies that anyone in the Cowboy organization had said the team would renegotiate with Dorsett.

Dorsett feels he is being trifled with by Cowboy management. And Stewart admits he probably was wrong to tell the Cowboys about some of Dorsett's financial worries. "They realized," laments Stewart, "that we were some weak puppies."

The situation is taking a toll on Dorsett's image. A Dallas newspaper columnist, Randy Galloway, reported that there's a perception that "Dorsett has failed himself, failed the Cowboys, failed the black community, failed America, failed." Another columnist, Skip Bayless, referred to the former Crown Prince of Dallas as "His Indebtedness."

If ever a guy needed steady work, it's Dorsett. But his pride is clearly hurt that he, a running back who is 475 yards away from becoming just the sixth NFL rusher to gain 10,000 yards, is making less money than a defensive tackle. And he complains, "I kept quiet because I thought the Cowboys would cease talking. They did not cease."

Just how did Dorsett get in this mess? How did he squander so much money?

•Because of the "incompetent people around him," says Brandt. Even Dorsett confesses, "They might have done fine things for other people. But they were not doing things in the best interest of Tony Dorsett." A friend says sadly, "Tony listens to everyone, and everyone has a better idea."

•A tax-shelter straddle, popular in the late '70s and outlawed in 1981, that was recommended to him. Dorsett says he doesn't recall the details, but when the IRS overruled it, Dorsett was hit with an additional 1979 tax liability of $156,085. That was followed by an increased 1980 liability, for the same shelter, of $172,656, according to Stewart.

•Problems with deferred money. Dorsett signed his first contract with the Cowboys in 1977 for $1,127,000, a five-year deal worked out by agent Mike Trope. Trope refuses to discuss his dealings with Dorsett. By 1980 Dorsett was very unhappy with what he has called his "crappy contract" and sought to get a new one. Then he retained a Pittsburgh attorney, Stephen Sokol, who says Dorsett asked him to do a new contract.

Sokol says he had most of the deal done when Dorsett suddenly and inexplicably turned again to Trope and signed a seven-year contract. "I thought then I wanted to be a Cowboy the rest of my life," Dorsett says, explaining why he went for a long-term deal. "But maybe it's not the place for me to be." Sokol has sued Dorsett, claiming he is owed some $70,000 for his work. He says, "I think Tony is an exceptional athlete who has listened to people who could care less about him as a person."

The new Cowboy contract was worth $2,725,000, with about $1.1 million deferred. Stewart happened on the scene and convinced Dorsett that rather than waiting for all this money—he was to be paid it between 1987 and 1996 at a rate of $100,000 to $125,000 a year—he should get it immediately and invest it. Dorsett agreed and received $238,000 from the team, the up-front cash value of the deferrals.

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